In recent years, the surge in mobile gamers across the globe has motivated smartphone makers to design and develop smartphones which are specially tailored towards mobile gaming.
Here, we are not talking about those typical flagship features like cameras and mobile processor alone, but also features like screen refresh rate, touch sampling rate, cooling system, battery life and fast-charging support that will bring your gaming experience to a whole new level.
As such, gaming-centric smartphones usually have niche features that we don’t see on mainstream flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra or the Huawei P40 Pro. That’s exactly what make them stood out and worthy of their price.
One of these devices is none other than the newly announced ASUS ROG Phone 3 which is already available for purchase in the local market at an off-contract price of S$1,598.
Since the device is positioned in the same price segment as some of the best-selling flagship phones in Singapore, let’s find out in this ASUS ROG Phone 3 review whether its worth (spoiler alert: take my money!) to pick it up.
Design & Display
At first glance, the front design of the ROG Phone 3 looks pretty much like the ROG Phone 2 we had last year. As usual, you won’t find notches or hole-punches of any sort on its front display. Instead, it will come with noticeable bezels towards the top and bottom of the front display that will play host to a dual front-blasting stereo speakers tuned by Dirac.
Speaking of its front display, its a vibrant 6.59-inches AMOLED display that comes with a tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio which is ideal for handling in both portrait and landscape positions.
It supports an insanely smooth 144Hz screen refresh rate as well as an ultra responsive 270Hz touch sampling rate which promises a a touch latency of just 25ms.
To take things further, the front display is also HDR10+ certified and is able to support 10-bit color depth that brings you true to life visuals. Coupled with its 650 nits peak brightness, you can rest assured that your front display will always be visible in all circumstances even if you put the device directly under the sun.
Wrapping up its front display will be none other than the Corning Gorilla Glass 6 which is capable of withstanding scratches and effective against accidental drops.
No doubt, the ASUS ROG Phone 3 has the most ideal display specs you can ever yearn for right now. Its immersive graphic is sure to make you hooked onto the phone for hours without even realizing.
Flipping the device over, the first thing you will notice is surely the signature “Republic Of Gamers” logo which features a RGB lighting effect that gives off a cool, yet intimidating vibes.
Aside from the “ROG” logo, there is also a horizontally aligned triple camera system paired with a pair of LED flash to the right of it. Compared to the ROG Phone 2, its obvious that the camera module is slightly more elongated this time round due to an additional camera this time round.
Similarly, there will also be a tiny vent towards the right of the back panel for heat dissipation purposes. Slightly below the air vent, there is a see-through section that showcases what seems to be the exterior cover of the cooling chamber.
Despite being a glass back, the ROG Phone 3 isn’t exactly prone to smudges. Even if it occasionally does, its not really obvious since the attention will always be directed towards the more prominent RGB logo.
Courtesy of its curved edges on the left and right sides of the back panel, the device feels pretty good on hand even though its a tad heavier than most of the mainstream devices. Likewise, its tall design also makes it easier to grip with one hand.
To sweeten the deal, ASUS has also included a matching phone casing that looks really good with the ROG Phone 3. Interestingly, the casing has an opening at the middle to ensure that the RGB logo remain visible even when the casing is fitted.
Performance & Gaming
Moving on to its performance, that’s where the ASUS ROG Phone 3 really shines. In case you do not know, the ROG Phone 3 is in fact the first smartphone in the local market which is powered by the latest Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset.
The main difference between the two chips lies in their prime cores. For the Snapdragon 865 Plus, its Cortex A77 prime core will feature a higher clocked rate of 3.1GHz, up from just 2.84GHz on the Snapdragon 865.
Coupled with its buttery-smooth 144Hz screen refresh rate, you will be blessed with a lag-free and immersive graphical experience for every single game titles you loaded on the device. On default game settings, the GameCool 3.0 cooling system did an incredibly good job in keeping the phone’s temperature down.
Even at maximum game settings, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of jittering or whatsoever. However, the device inevitably heat up after you play several rounds of PUBG under the highest settings.
That’s where the AeroActive cooler (included in the box) comes into play. It is an external cooler, in addition to the built-in GameCool 3 cooling system, which can be attached to the back of the device via a connecting port located along its left frame.
When attached, you can easily tell the difference in phone’s temperature but you will still feel a bit of heat if you play under maximum graphics after some time. That being said, the heat is pretty much tolerable with the AeroActive cooler attached. More importantly, the cooler doesn’t affects the overall ergonomic when gaming.
Of course, how can we call a smartphone a gaming flagship without those intricate software optimizations. For the ROG Phone 3, you have both the X Mode and a dedicated in-game assistant known as “Game Genie”.
Let’s start with the X Mode. This feature can be easily accessed by tapping the “Armory Crate” icon located at the bottom navigational bar of the home screen. By tapping on the X Mode button on the “Console” screen, it will turn on a high performance mode which boosts the CPU’s frequency for a smoother game play.
In fact, there is also a custom settings button located slightly below the X Mode button which allows you to have even more freedom to tweak the level of performance of the device. As you see from the screenshot, there is a total of three performance levels for you to select.
The higher the level, the greater the operating efficiency of the CPU/ GPU – but at expense of your battery life. However, you will be prompted to toggle the level 3 performance only when the AeroActive Cooler is attached to the phone. That’s necessary as the phone will really heat up quite a bit if you tune in to the highest performance for a game with maximum graphic settings as I mentioned earlier on.
Moving on to its in-game assistant, Game Genie can be activated by sweeping the screen inwards from left to right. This will open up an intuitive panel filled with loads of customization tools and settings for your disposal. Some of the most commonly used features include the calls and notifications blocking functionalities that prevent those annoying pop-ups and vibrations that interrupt your game play.
Other than that, there is also an option to show the real-time system statistics at the bottom of the screen. These include all the crucial information like CPU/ GPU usages, battery level, device’s temperature, as well as frame rate. Therefore, you will not need to download a third-party app to monitor the phone’s performance.
Another useful feature in Game Genie is none other than the AirTriggers setting. This feature allows you to easily maps in-game buttons to the left and right ultrasonic shoulder buttons known as the AirTriggers buttons.
As seen on the screen recording above, you only need to spend a couple of seconds to setup the AirTriggers feature. In the recording, the Blue button is equivalent to the left shoulder button, while the Red button represents the right shoulder button.
To map the AirTriggers buttons to the in-game buttons, it can be easily done by dragging the Blue and Red buttons to the respective in-game buttons you like to map. Once done, tapping on the left and right shoulder buttons will simulate the tapping of the onscreen buttons.
Last but not the least, the ROG Phone 3 is also served with a huge 12GB LPDDR5 RAM that can easily support dozens of background apps and browser tabs without reaching memory bottleneck. Also, the latest LPDDR5 RAM technology also ensures fast launching of apps on the device.
Despite being primarily a gaming-centric smartphone, the ASUS ROG Phone 3 still comes with a pretty versatile triple camera system at the back. These cameras include a 64 megapixels (f/1.8 aperture) primary shooter, 13 megapixels (f/2.4 aperture) ultra-wide lens, as well as a 5 megapixels (f/2.0 aperture) macro camera.
As usual, its 64 megapixels primary shooter will employs the 4-in-1 pixel binning technology by default to output 16 megapixels images. Overall, images clicked with the default mode has an acceptable dynamic range and possess a good level of details in both well-lit and low-light environment.
Images are definitely usable and insta-worthy, but we can’t possibly compare them with those taken by those flagship camera-centric smartphones since these devices are catered to different user groups.
For darker environment, the ROG Phone 3 also comes along with a dedicated Night mode to brighten up the scenes. Unless you turn off the night scene detection option, the device will automatically switch to night mode whenever the phone detects a low-light environment.
Generally speaking, images taken using Night mode are pretty impressive. Level of details in the images are well maintained and overall exposure level is decent as well. On top of that, highlights within the scene are also well preserved.
As for the wide angle shots, the ROG Phone 3 will rely on its 13 megapixels ultra-wide lens which offers a 125-degree Field-of-View. On the whole, the quality of the images taken by its ultra-wide lens didn’t deviate much from its main camera – and that’s certainly a good thing to see.
For zooming, the ROG Phone 3 is only able to support up to 8x digital zoom due to the lack of telephoto lens. Images taken within the 2x to 5x zoom level are pretty much usable. However, the noise level will start to become more obvious when you cross the 5x mark. Likewise, its colors profile also became a tad bit flatter.
Coming to its close-up shots, we can see that the subject in the foreground is accurately isolated from the background. Though it has a natural bokeh effect on the background, but the intensity of the blurring isn’t strong enough to make the subject really stand out in the images. However, the device has done well in offering realistic colors and details for its close-up shots.
Indeed, the ROG Phone 3 has everything it needs to be a perfect gaming flagship. It scores perfectly in the battery department with its monstrous 6,000mAh battery which felt almost immortal throughout the day.
Under normal usage conditions, you can normally ends the day with around 40% battery remaining. So it can actually provides almost 2-days worth of battery life if you put some effort to conserve its power.
When gaming on default mode, it can easily offer you more than six hours of battery life. That’s definitely more than sufficient, and is almost an overkill for most of the users – unless you really spend more than half a day gaming everyday.
Of course, if you activate the X Mode and set it to high performance level, then the battery life will inevitably be lower. Likewise, tuning the in-game graphics to higher level will also have the same effect on the battery life.
Due to its huge battery, the ROG Phone 3 will take slightly longer to be fully charged despite coming with a 30W fast-charging support. As such, it will take you around 100 minutes to bring its battery level from 0 to 100%.
Furthermore, its also worth highlighting that the ROG Phone 3 has an interesting feature known as Power Master that helps to improve the long term battery health of the device.
For instance, you can set the overnight charging limit to around 80% if you predict that you wouldn’t be using the phone heavily on the next day. This will help reduce charge cycles and ultimately improves the battery health.
To sum up, the ASUS ROG Phone 3 certainly worth every penny you fork out. Its powerful chipset along with mind-blowing graphics turn it into an all-rounded entertainment beast. Blessed with a mammoth 6,000mAh battery, the device can easily support long-hours of entertainment on the go.
Moreover, its off-contract price of S$1,598 still makes the device a cheaper option as compared to other flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra or the Huawei P40 Pro+. Therefore, unless you’re an avid mobile photographer, the ROG Phone 3 is a perfect option for users who go for gaming performance and entertainment value.
The device is no doubt the best gaming flagship currently available in Singapore.